City High’s McCleary becomes program’s first to commit to wrestling in college

Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 7:18 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - This winter marked the inaugural season for the City High girls wrestling team. That meant building the program from scratch and getting girls like Sydney McCleary involved, even if it was to improve things for other sports.

“I went into this hoping for mental toughness for softball. Becoming a better player, mentally strong and just stronger in general. I think I’m coming out of it with all those things,” she said back in December.

Just weeks into this season, she knew it was going to be tough.

“It’s the hardest sport I’ve ever done in my life and probably will ever be, but it’s like an adrenaline rush. I just can’t get enough of it,” she added.

Months later, her opinion hasn’t changed about the sport, but her future plans have.

“Six months later, it’s still the hardest sport 100 percent,” McCleary said. “There’s just so much conditioning, on top of heart‚ on top of everything that goes into it. It’s just nothing like I’ve done before.”

Although she’s played varsity softball for the Little Hawks the past four years, earlier this month she put pen to paper signing her National Letter of Intent to join the William Penn University women’s wrestling program. Her decision comes after wrestling for just one season.

“It was probably three weeks before state, and I remember I was at one of the practices, I was driving home and I was so sad that I had three weeks left. I’m really in love with this. I remember driving home after the night that state ended and just thinking to myself, practice is done, this season is over, but I’m just getting started,” she explained.

McCleary is the first-ever City High girl to commit to wrestle in college.

“You’ve taken a young lady who just started the sport in November and I just saw the growth in three months. Give her three or four years, there’s no doubt that she’ll win championships down the road,” said City High girls wrestling head coach Jeff Koenig.

Trying something new your senior season isn’t easy, but McCleary is thankful that she gave wrestling a shot and that City High provided this opportunity.

“I’m extremely blessed this was here this year,” she said. “If it wasn’t here, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice and would have done softball, but this did fall into my hands. This was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

For a program that went through many firsts, they hope McCleary’s experience can pave the way for more girls to continue wrestling at the next level.

“We’ll use Syd for, if you love this sport and you want to believe and do the work, you have the ability to do what Syd did,” added Koenig.

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